My husband and I went to a “chili challenge” on Saturday night, and a friend asked me if I knew how to make gumbo. I absolutely DO! Our beloved aunt Charlie and her family lived in New Orleans, and she could make a mean pot of seafood gumbo! My mother had the recipe, and at a young age I learned to make a good roux. If you want good gumbo, you’ve got to be able to make this most important part of the recipe or it won’t taste like traditional gumbo. Many years ago there was a chef on TV named Justin Wilson. I watched him faithfully back before Food Network was even a thing, and I had his gumbo recipe which included a detailed section on making a roux. He always said it should be dark like the muddy Mississippi River. Another tip he had was not to go overboard on the bell peppers. You can make this same recipe and use seafood (fish, oysters, shrimp, crab, etc.) if preferred. By the way, you can buy roux from some grocery stores, but I have never tried store-bought and can’t attest to the taste. Anyway, here is how I make gumbo:
To make the roux:
To stock pot add:
3 T olive oil, butter or shortening
3 T flour
Sauté over medium/low heat until it looks like chocolate syrup (stir frequently to keep from burning…some people prefer lighter roux) . You may have to stand and stir for nearly an hour depending on the color you want!
In between stirring the roux, you can start preparing the other ingredients, which means a lot of chopping and some measuring. It’s a good idea to have all of your ingredients out ahead of time, and you may even want to chop things before starting the roux. If you prefer multi-tasking, just go for it all at once and pretend like you’re on Chopped or Beat Bobby Flay. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you don’t burn the roux!
In a 9-qt stock pot add:
*4 small chicken breasts, diced
4 slices hickory smoked bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
*1 pkg turkey or beef smoked sausage (Oscar Meyer), or Andouille sausage sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1/4 c. Canola or olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
Sauté all ingredients until chicken cooked thoroughly; remove meat to drain
*If you smoke the meat vs. saute, it will give it a tremendous flavor!
Next, add the “trinity”:
1 whole diced white onion
1/2 diced bell pepper
4 stalks finely diced celery (I peel my celery with a potato peeler to get rid of the stringy stuff)
Mix into the roux. You may need to add a splash of chicken stock here and there to keep it from gumming together. It should be silky smooth.
1/4 c chicken stock
Gradually thinning it down
1 small can tomato paste
2 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T Old Bay seasoning
Continue to simmer and bring to low boil. You can add a large can of crushed tomatoes if you don’t want the Ro-Tel flavor. You really can’t mess it up from here.
1 small pkg whole kernel corn
1 small pkg sliced okra
4 c chicken stock (more depending on how thick/thin you like it)
1/2 c white wine (optional)
2 T. Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce
Cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or you can let this simmer for several hours if you want, or even cook in a slow cooker. Just make sure not to let anything stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch.
Last step, add:
Cooked meat and simmer for 15 more minutes
Remove bay leaves
Serve with Jasmati rice, New York Garlic Toast or saltine crackers, and maybe a little Chardonnay !
If you want to use seafood, remember that sea critters cook fast and are easy to overcook, and if using shrimp make sure not to add it too soon or it will be rubbery! When adding shrimp, for example, I peel and clean them, set aside, and add in the last 15 minutes. When they turn bright pink, they’re done! Honestly, I would rather cook the shrimp separately and add to my bowl of cooked gumbo just to make sure it isn’t overcooked.
I hope you’ll give this smokin’ hot gumbo recipe a try! It will warm you up on a cold winter night, for sure!